‘Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez sentenced to 18 months in prison

A New Mexico judge on Monday ordered “Rust” movie weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez to serve 18 months in prison — the maximum sentence — for her role in the accidental shooting death of the western film’s cinematographer two and a half years ago in New Mexico.

In March, a Santa Fe, N.M. jury found Gutierrez, 26, guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Halyna Hutchins’ death during a rehearsal for a scene with Alec Baldwin, who was pointing his prop gun at her when it discharged. Prosecutors have alleged that Gutierrez brought the live ammunition to the film’s set and loaded it into Baldwin’s gun.

At an emotional sentencing hearing on Monday, in the same Santa Fe courtroom where Gutierrez’s trial unfolded, friends of Hutchins described her joy, generosity, determination and talent — and their sorrow by her death. The testimony, including from her family in Ukraine, underscored the on-set safety lapses that led to the fatal accident and the profound loss felt by friends, family members and fellow filmmakers.

Gutierrez, wearing a prison jumpsuit, sobbed at times during Monday’s hearing. She asked the judge to sentence her to probation, rather than jail time for the felony conviction and said the media had painted her as “a monster” rather than the naive and inexperienced crew member trying her best. She said that she was sorry.

But New Mexico First District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer was not swayed, saying Gutierrez has shown little remorse.

“You were the armorer, the one that stood between a safe weapon and a weapon that could kill someone,” Marlowe Sommer told Gutierrez. “You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon. But for you, Ms. Hutchins would be alive, a husband would have his partner and a little boy would have his mother.”

The October 2021 shooting shined a harsh light on film set safety, particularly on low budget-productions. The case drew worldwide attention, in large part, because of Baldwin’s stature in Hollywood and as a political lightning rod. Baldwin also has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and his trial is scheduled for July in Santa Fe. He has pleaded not guilty.

Gutierrez and her team have long asserted that she was unfairly bearing the brunt of the blame for the accident when others shared responsibility for on-set safety lapses. Hours before the fatal shooting, “Rust” camera crew members had walked off the job to protest safety concerns and a lack of nearby housing.

Gutierrez had little experience; “Rust” was just her second job as head armorer.

“Film producers are responsible to ensure the cast and crew members hired are experienced enough to handle their jobs,” Hutchins’ agent, Craig Mizrahi Monday during Monday’s hearing, which was televised by Court TV.

“When the producers hired someone with virtually no experience to not only be the armor, but also the assistant prop master, two very challenging positions in their own right, they made a crucial decision to put the safety of their cast and crew on the back-burner,” Mizrahi said.

Famed victims’ rights attorney Gloria Allred was on hand to read statements from Hutchins’ family in Ukraine. Speaker after speaker, including the film’s director Joel Souza, who was injured by the same bullet, talked about how the shooting had profoundly affected them, and they remain filled with sorrow to this day.

“Halyna was a force. … She was one of my favorite people in the world,” Jen White, a friend, testified through a video link. “I feel like she has gotten lost in the swirl of all of the finger-pointing and blame in the aftermath of this completely preventable tragedy.”

Gutierrez has long acknowledged loading Baldwin’s gun with what she thought were inert “dummy” rounds. Baldwin has described how he was practicing an upcoming scene by pointing his prop pistol — a fully functioning Colt .45 revolver — at Hutchins, unaware that an actual bullet was one of six rounds packed inside the chamber.

Defense attorneys had asked Marlowe Sommer for leniency, saying Gutierrez was eligible for a conditional release program because the shooting was an accident and Gutierrez had no prior criminal record. But the judge said she didn’t deserve such treatment.

Prosecutors had built a case that Gutierrez had showed little remorse for the death of Hutchins.

“Ms. Gutierrez continues to deny responsibility and blame others” for Hutchins’ death, special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey wrote in a court filing late last week. On Monday, Morrissey said she wasn’t sure what was the appropriate punishment for Gutierrez until last week, when she began culling through Gutierrez’s jail phone calls during her conversations with her mother, boyfriend and a paralegal.

“It was my sincere hope during this process that there would be some moment when Ms. Gutierrez took responsibility expressed some level of remorse that was genuine,” Morrissey said. “And that moment has never come.”

The judge also pointed to the jail conversations to back up her decision that Gutierrez should serve time in a state prison rather than the county jail or probation.

New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, center, talks with prosecutors Jason Lewis and defense attorney Jason Bowles, right.

New Mexico First Judicial Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, center, talks with prosecutors Jason Lewis, left, and defense attorney Jason Bowls, right, during Hannah Gutierrez’s trial in February in Santa Fe, N.M.

(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Gutierrez’s attorney Jason Bowles strongly disagreed with the prosecutors’ conclusions.

“Ms. Gutierrez Reed has felt real sadness and remorse over the tragic events,” Bowles wrote Sunday in advance of the sentencing hearing. “She has experienced this largely in private and has sought counseling to deal with her emotions and mental breakdowns.”

It was the second conviction that New Mexico prosecutors have secured in the case of Hutchins’ death.

Last year, “Rust” assistant director David Halls pleaded no contest to one count of negligent use of a deadly weapon for his role in the tragedy. Halls had handed the gun to Baldwin that day, declaring it safe. He received a suspended six-month sentence of unsupervised probation. He testified against Gutierrez at her trial and has been on the witness list for Baldwin’s case.

Armorer Thell Reed and daughter Hannah Gutierrez Reed.

Armorer Thell Reed and daughter Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was the armorer on “Rust,” pose together on a film set.

(From Thell Reed)

Gutierrez’s lawyer, Bowles, has provided his services pro bono since taking the case in 2021.

Last week, Gutierrez’s step father, Thell Reed, attempted to set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to cover Gutierrez’s legal bills during an appeal but the site took down the family’s post due to its policy that prohibits fundraisers for legal defenses for criminal charges for violent crimes.

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